Touch is an acute sense for us – the skin is the same ectodermic cell layer as the nervous system and contains hundreds of thousands of sensory receptors. And we are fed information non-stop, even if we are not aware of it. My fingers are tapping on the responsive keys on my laptop while I sit on my hard wooden bench. The breeze from the overhead fan cools my skin, prickly from the heat. I wriggle my toes as I think how to convey all the feelings I am suddenly present with. My skin is the biggest sensory organ but I don’t often think about my touch.
Just take a look at the idioms of touch we have and you can begin to understand how pervasive it is in our language. The Midas Touch, keep in touch, out of touch, touch base, touch down, finishing touch…But touch is really the unspoken language we use to connect with each other. The way we touch someone in conversation adds another dimension to what we are trying to convey. Oftentimes, it is too difficult to actually verbalize our true feelings and our need to connect with someone. A mother’s gentle touch can heal her child’s boo-boo. A lover’s caress can send us to ecstatic heights and a stranger’s tap can be exciting or creepy. There is a right touch and a wrong touch.*
Studies have shown that positive touch is essential to emotional and physical development. Our stress levels drop and our immune system is boosted. We feel safe and loved, which builds our self-esteem and confidence. ”Good touch” actually leads to the production of endorphins, our natural pain suppressants that are more powerful than morphine.
We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.
Virginia Satir, a renowned family therapist
The benefits of hugging someone and being hugged are immediate. Ever wondered why teddy bears are so loved?
Even though touch is essential to our well-being, its importance is understated and taken for granted. People may think about the loss of senses like sight and hearing. We probably all have had a stuffed-up nose when we are congested or just have the sensation of fire in our mouths, tasting nothing else when spicy food overwhelmed our taste buds. But losing the sense of touch?
I’d like to wrap up this article with a story about Lee Shapiro, a retired judge who offered everyone a hug because he felt love is the greatest power there is. This is the story of “The Hugging Judge” from Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Lee created the Hugger Kit and from it, he would offer a little red embroidered heart in exchange for a hug. He was invited to a home for the terminally ill, severely mentally handicapped and quadriplegic. It was not easy for Lee, especially the worst cases. The last person he met was Leonard, who was drooling on his bib and Lee thought he wouldn’t be able to get through to him. But he gave him a hug anyway and Leonard started to squeal and other patients began to clang things together. The doctors, nurses, and orderlies were all crying. “This is the first time in 23 years we’ve ever seen Leonard smile,” one of the nurses explained.
This is the power of touch.
It only takes a hug, a heartfelt and warm embrace, to change the lives of others. Try it, it works.
Lee Shapiro, the “Hugging Judge”
*A wrong touch doesn’t have to be physically forceful, though it often is. In fact, a soft caress can be a wrong touch! When someone consciously or unconsciously tries to take control of or possess another, the other person feels it, even if they can’t quite discern its energetic message. It is therefore important to be on your own identity when connecting with another person. See the difference by taking the touch sequence.
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This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to replace medical advice or treatment.
About the Author
Sandra Shih Tonkinson is an alternative health practitioner based in Singapore. She writes regularly for wellness centres as well as for her own practice Jupiter Circles. She is also the Editor of What Therapy, a Singapore-based alternative, complementary, and holistic wellness portal.